Tag Archives: Mayor Joseph O’Brien

District 4 City Councilor Barbara Haller: working for us all

By Worcester Mayor Joseph O’Brien

Barbara Haller is a tireless advocate, fighting for the people of District 4. No one works harder, no one is more committed to lifting up the quality of life for all the people in District 4 and our City.

Her work on making our city cleaner, safer, accessible and vibrant has clearly made a strong positive difference. We are all better because of Barbara’s service to our community.
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Barbara Haller helps families

By “a resident,” District 4

During the H1N1 outbreak, parents were told to keep their children home from school if they had a fever. It quickly became apparent to our staff at the Academy School Health Center that many of our families did not own a thermometer and thus had difficulty determining whether their child had a fever.

When Barbara learned of the need (while serving on the Woodland Academy Task Force) she quickly came to the rescue by raising funds for thermometers for families. Barbara reached out to the Main South CDC and Clark University and the three of them brought funds to Family Health Center for this effort.

The thermometers were distributed via the Woodland and Claremont Academies School Based Health Center: a true partnership between a neighborhood centered elected official, neighborhood-based organizations, schools, and neighborhood based health care.

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Mayor Joe O’Brien: a true progressive who took us to higher ground

By Rosalie Tirella

In a way, we didn’t deserve him. In a way, Joseph – “Joe” – O’Brien, Worcester’s first true progressive mayor, was too darned forward-thinking for the dunderheads in this city – most of whom took to calling him “commie,” “socialist,” and other such perjoratives when O’Brien did enlightened things like advocate for immigrants in Arizona and district representation on the Worcester School Committee. etc. – ideas and proclamations that we at InCity Times CHEERED! Absolutely cheered! But the morons of Worcester – of which there are scads – couldn’t see the light that Joe O’Brien shone for all the heat they were generating. I couldn’t believe, as I read cop-ed columns, people’s/community leaders’ quotes in local papers, etc how positively cuckoo for cocoa puffs the nuts in this town would go when confronted with new, good ideas – ideas that O’Brien put out in a clear, thoughtful and sensitive way.

The bashing was something we at InCity Times thought only happened to us! Not to (basically) a Worcester insider like Joe O’Brien. I mean, he had the Irish name, Congressman’s Jim McGovern’s support, the Tim Murray impramateur tattooed on his butt, for Cripes sake – and yet – yet – the morons of Worcester went at O’Brien like the Roman gladiators went after the first Christians in the Colesseum!

But Mayor Joe O’Brien continued to bravely follow his head and his heart – put out one great idea after another. Even when people like fellow city councilor Paul Clancy – the so called “dean of the Worceser City Council – slagged him in the press. Even when the T & G treated him like some martian who had just disembarked from his shiny flying sacuer. It was heartbreaking – and yet inspiring. No matter what the powers that be said – Joe O’Brien stayed true to his ideas – ideas/plans that we have applauded on these pages, plans that have included: a Latino student task force, the banning of exotic animal acts in Worcester, the cheerleading and creation of community gardens in Worcestwer’s inner-city neighbrohoods, his total support of the MCAS-weary Goddard School staff/teachers, families and students. Also: O’Brien’s support of raising chickens in city limits (very cool!), his belief that all kids – no matter what their color or socio-ecomomic backgrounds must succeed in our Worcester Public Schools, his support for improving/repairing the buildings/grounds of Worceser’s inner-city schools, his desire to make our public schools the best in the state – so the city can continue to draw middle- and upper-middle-class families.

And the list goes on: such as O’Brien’s PURPOSELY living in Worcester’s inner-city, suporting the good work of the Main South CDC, WALKING to work so that he can get a true taste of what is going on in our city and talk with folks who may not otherwise feel comfortable accessing him in City Hall, creating longer mayor office hours so working people can meet with him in city hall to discuss their concerns. And, let’s not forget, O’Brien’s pushing the City of Worcester to hire local contractractors/companies for local city construction work and other jobs.

My list goes on and on. We have become one of O’Brien’s biggest cheerleaders! We regret the not so great past in which we defended Grace Ross to Joe’s detriment (BUT GRACE would support Joe on all his issues – we know it!)

But I digress! Everything that Mayor Joseph O’Brien proposed for this city was the right thing to do – the Catholic thing to do.

Many of O’Brien’s detractors – the morons – couldn’t wait to kick O’Brien out of the mayor’s chair this election cycle because they were afraid of the vision of the city Joe was presenting to us all – a picture, I think, that is the true snapshot of where Worcester is in the early part of the 21’st century and where it is going. Immigrants, the rising Latino population, an underclass that has not been helped enough, good, safe housing for our poor families (to stabilize our schools!), the environment … . These are all truths that will continue to bloom as the years pass, years after we all bite the Wormtown dust.

My guess? O’Brien would have won the mayoral seat again. He is too well liked and respected by lots of good people, he had the support of the unions (even though he pushed them to pay a teeny bit more on their health insurance premiums), and the business community likes what he was/is doing for them (for example, the business round table he set up).

This would be a truly sad time if O’Brien had decided to pull out of the Worcester city council all together.

We, however, are lucky. Joseph O’Brien is still running for an At Large City Council seat. We are ecstatic!

We say YES to Joe O’Brien – yes! to his vision of Worcester and his continuing the fab work he is doing for all of us – especially the Worcester of tomorrow.

Responsible chicken ordinance perhaps coming to Worcester

By Worcester District 4 City Councilor Barbara Halller

In the interest of full disclosure, I once raised chickens. In one case it was while living at a farm-school in Pettigrew, Arkansas, and in the other it was while raising my family in the town of Holland, MA. I love chickens. My kids love chickens. And I can’t wait to raise chickens once again.

Right now it is against the law to have chickens in Worcester. This means that if you go ahead and raise some and someone complains you will be ordered to get rid of them. It also means that if some city person comes to your home or a nearby neighbor for some other reason (noisy party, barking dog, wellness check, etc.) and the chickens are seen that you will be ordered to get rid of them.

The idea of making chickens legal in Worcester has been around for a long time. But nobody got serious about it till a couple of years ago. Kristi Chadwick contacted me and asked for me to help get an ordinance effort going. We now call her the Mother Hen. Kristi did mounds of research about other communities’ ordinance successes and failures. She crafted a draft ordinance, and revised it, and revised it, over and over, as we worked to come up with the best chicken ordinance ever. We wanted a Responsible Chicken Ordinance, one that could get enacted and that protected quality of life for chickens and neighbors.

For many of us, this is not about if we get a chicken ordinance, but rather when we get one. This is happening across the country as more citizens want to participate in growing and controlling their own food, increase quality of their food, reduce transportation pollutions, and educate their children about where food comes from. On top of this, many find this kind of grassroots agriculture as fun and healthy.

Los Angeles, Rogers AK, Key West, South Portland ME, Madison, New York City, Portland OR, Seattle and Spokane WA, San Antonio, Oakland and San Diego and San Francisco CA, Austin, Memphis, Baltimore, and many, many more towns and cities now allow chickens. Providence passed her ordinance last fall.

Along the way, word got out about this effort and others joined in. My Clark intern in 2010, Lilly Denhardt, did some research. Mayor Joe O’Brien joined. Regional Environmental Council (REC) joined. Casey Starr joined. Joe Scully joined. Liz Sheehan Castro joined. Peggy Middaugh joined. By this spring, the effort definitely had momentum and it was time to move it into the Council process.

A group of us met with the Commissioner of Public Health, Dr. Dale Magee, and the Director of Public Health, Derek Brindisi, and went over the proposed ordinance, section by section, and listened to concerns raised. More revisions were made; the text was put in cleaner ordinance format.

Our ordinance allows for up to 5 chicken hens. No roosters, no slaughtering, no selling. Property owner’s permission is required. Backyards only. Annual license. City-approved coop. Outside only. At least twenty feet from neighbor’s house. Fenced enclosure.

Word continued to spread. More people joined in support. On June 14, 2011 Mayor O’Brien and I filed a council order requesting that the City Manager provide council with language similar to our draft ordinance which would allow for the keeping of chicken hens in Worcester. The request was sent to the Council’s Standing Committee of Public Health and Human Services for further discussion and recommendation. Councilor Phil Palmieri chairs this committee; the other two members are Councilor Konnie Lukes and myself.

The process is likely to be as follows: Councilor Palmieri schedules a hearing. Testimony is taken from the public, from city officials from Animal Control, Public Health, Planning Department (land use), and the Law Department. There may be more committee hearings scheduled, depending on the issues raised. At some point the committee will make a recommendation back to the full council: in favor, opposed, or in favor as amended by committee. Then the council will take a vote to support the committee’s recommendations or not. Six votes are needed. Members of the council could raise additional questions, could hold it for a week or forever. If we get the votes we need, the ordinance would be published for additional comments and then the final vote taken.

So, we have a way to go yet. But with strong advocacy and engagement we could have spring chicks 2012. (Rule is: Spring chicks, September eggs.) Hopefully we will soon answer the question “which came first.” For Worcester, many of us want the answer to be “the chicken.”

I believe that we have crafted a responsible and workable ordinance that will make Worcester a better place.

Worcester Mayor Joe O’Brien – Part 2

By Rosalie Tirella

After I wrote yesterday’s blog, I remembered this: You would think Mayor Joseph O’Brien has scored a few points with some of his detractors. After all, he is asking the city’s public school teachers to pay 25% of their health insurance premiums. (Good!) While a friend of labor, O’Brien knows that everyone – including our unions – needs to give a little these days, and Worcesterties will balk at paying higher taxes if they feel their money is simply going to the unions’ sky rocketing benefit packages. Going to pay 80% of our teachers’ health insurance! Worcester taxpayers are especially annoyed when folks in the private sector pay as much as 50% of their health insurance premiums – and our teachers are whining about paying only 25%. Worcester biz folks and rersidents balk at paying higher taxes when they have to listen to our teachers – most of whom make at least $70,000/year and many of whom pull down a salary of around $90,000 – think they are taking the moral high ground when they refuse to accept a 5% increase in their health insurance premiums.

Pathetic.

So, of course, the Worcester Public School teachers union is giving O’Brien a hard time.

Then there is O’Brien’s support of Worcester Public Schools Superintendent Melinda Boone. Worcester is a provincial place – filled with people who accept no one outside their circles of trust (family, church, political groups, ethnic enclaves). This narrowmindedness is a black mark on Worcester because civic life doesn’t run that way in places like Hartford or Springfield or Lowell. These cities’ civic lives are actually enriched by all the new and varied voices! But here, in Wormtown, newcomers like Boone, will be dragged through the mud by yappers like Gary Rosen, Worcester School Committee member Tracy Novick, etc. The Goddard School MCAS test brouhaha was reason enough for Novick – who wants all of Worcester to know she is such a good Catholic – to lead a racially tinged witch hunt.

Mayor O’Brien has backed Boone with passion and grit. Kudos to him!

And finally, Mayor O’Brien has taken a bit of a shelacking from neighborhood activist and InCity Times pal Gary Vecchio. Gary (usually a very nice guy) is not behaving too sweetly these days. He will not let O’Brien forget that during campaign season O’Brien said he was for the lowest residential tax rate – Gary’s hobby horse. This past year, however, after meeting weith biz folks and carefuly considering the city’s future, O’Brien along with a majority of the Worcester City Council, voted to raise Worcesterites’ property taxes a teeny bit. Old people are exempt, really poor people are exempt. But if you are middle class, it means an increase of about 100 bucks or so for you. Some how this has put Gary Veccio over the edge – he won’t let O’Brien forget that HE WENT BACK ON HIS CAMPAIGN PROMISE. I wish Gary, who is a great guy, would lighten up and see O’Brien’s move for what it was: a desire to keep Worcester running smoothly during a nasty recession.

So, I guess, Gary and all the blue collar home owners in Worcester are now pissed at O’Brien – or that’s what Gary wants us to think.

Why not think this: O’Brien is not, as the Sunday Telegram stated in its headline, “an enigma.” Mayor Joe O’Brien is TRYING TO LEAD our city in very shaky times. He is asking ALL of us – residents, biz folks, municipal unions – to do our part to keep Worcester great.

Let’s rise to the occasion!

Watching Mayor Joe O’Brien betray Save Our Poolz …

By Rosalie Tirella

this past Worcester City Council meeting made me think: this guy isn’t gonna give anything to “the people.” His campaign was just a lot of hot air.

Case in point: O’Brien FINALLY got out of his mayoral chair, took the mic and talked on an issue: the city manager and DPW head Bob Moylan were giving councilors an update on the work that will be done at the new Crompton Park pool. Mayor Joe O’Brien got up and pretty much rubberstamped what the city administration did/said all along. In a very quiet tone of voice O’Brien said: we will, as money permits, try to open more city pools. Then, as if to throw a bone to the Save Our Poolz folks, he said the Wheels to Water program will be broadened, hopefully with more jobs for folks.

Nice back-pedalling, O’Brien! Continue reading Watching Mayor Joe O’Brien betray Save Our Poolz …

Pan-handlers, all? Plus: Holy Cross and College Hill

By Cheez Wiz

A while ago, I pondered the effectiveness of government led by the forces of Mayor Joe O’Brien-Tim Murray-Jim McGovern and their biggest cheerleader, Jordan Levy. After all, how is this city going to grow when Joe’s “position papers” are basically outlines on how he is going to beg his federal and state connections for federal help? It doesn’t help matters that none of the big three has a private sector background. (Ya see, those panhandlers really do teach us things!)

The new Joe-Jordan-Jim-Tim Alliance relies on federal and state help. What they lack from the get go is a sense of ideas, creativity and business sense as a foundation for job growth. What happened to the ideas first put forth by President Obama – of the “carrot and stick” approach to building business?

What happened to increased use of No Child Left Behind? Why has that program been so watered down to suit the teachers’ unions at the expense of needy, low-income children? Continue reading Pan-handlers, all? Plus: Holy Cross and College Hill

Will things really change with Mayor Joe O’Brien at the helm? (he also heads our school committee)

By Rosalie Tirella

After reading all the pieces on Joe O’Brien’s inauguration day festivities (I wasn’t invited to the ball and InCity Times was emailed no public announcement about it to post in the paper so our readers could attend – unlike two years ago, when Konnie Lukes became mayor and I got ALL the info and a beautiful invitation to boot), I ask: Will things really change in Worcester with Joe at the helm? Will O’Brien really be any different from a pol who rewards his pals and punishes anyone who doesn’t agree with him? More important: Will things really change/improve in the Worcester Public Schools now that Mayor O’Brien says he wants to make the WPS system the best urban school system in America?

Actions speak louder than words, my momma always told me. This is what I have to go on so far: Continue reading Will things really change with Mayor Joe O’Brien at the helm? (he also heads our school committee)